Erin O’Flaherty may have just won Miss Missouri, but she’s also conquered an even bigger milestone: O’Flaherty is the first openly gay competitor vying for the Miss America title.
The 23-year-old beauty queen originally from South Carolina was put forward by the Miss Missouri Scholarship Organization for the main event in Atlantic City on September 11. “‘I’m on cloud nine really just to be Miss Missouri,” O’Flaherty said following her victory. “I don’t know that I intended to be the first, but I am. So I’m very excited about it.”
O’Flaherty, whose main pageant platform was suicide prevention, came out to her family at the age of 18. Although the clothing store owner hopes to reach out to the LGBT community during her reign as Miss Missouri, she insists it will not be her primal focus.
“My focus of my year isn’t going to be that I’m gay,” O’Flaherty told AP. “But also there will be many appearances that I do that have nothing to do with that. And so I’m hoping that I can strike a really nice balance of staying true to the values of Miss Missouri and also being able to exercise my personal views.”
The new Miss Missouri is breaking ground and making history, and that’s pretty damn amazing.